MINGO JUNCTION - A majority of about 60 residents who attended a public meeting Tuesday held by Village Council said they are willing to pay $4 a month to keep most of the streetlights on.
Council has been considering since September the issue as a cost-saving measure. The village spends about $70,000 a year on 550 streetlights and others lights throughout the village, such as at the cemetery and Aracoma Park.
Councilman Michael Herrick, chairman of the streetlights committee, presented three options to residents. One is turning off all the lights; second, keep about 60 streetlights on at intersections; or third, impose a $4-per-month fee to residents to keep all the streetlights on.
MAKING A POINT — Mingo Junction resident Fred Pernick addressed members of Mingo Junction Council on Tuesday during a public meeting on whether streetlights should be turned off or residents should pay $4 a month to keep the lights on. A majority of residents said they were willing to pay $4 a month to keep the lights on. - Mark Law
Council was told by AEP that residents could pay $11 a month to have a light installed by the utility on a pole outside their homes if the lights are turned off.
A hand vote of the people at the meeting showed a majority wanted the lights kept on and pay the $4 a month.
Herrick said council has the cost to consider, but, more importantly, has to weigh the safety issue of turning out the streetlights.
Even if all the lights were turned off, the village would be responsible for six months of the cost under an agreement with AEP.
Councilman John Fabian said he is in favor of the $4-a-month fee, but he only wants it imposed for 12 months. He wants council to revisit the issue then. He said the $4-a-month fee would be collected from the 1,700 residents paying a water bill. Residents outside the village limits receiving village water won't have to pay.
Fabian said there have been home and vehicle break-ins, and he said his own car was entered and ransacked.
"We are inviting bad people to come into Mingo," Fabian said about turning off the lights.
Councilman Chuck Dickey said he is in favor of the $4-a-month fee but still wants some of the unnecessary lights turned off.
"My concern is collecting the $4. If we add it to the water bill, we still will have people who won't pay. He said the village can turn the water off to a house if the water bill isn't paid. He asked what recourse the village will have if a streetlight fee isn't paid.
Resident Fred Pernick said residents can turn on porch lights or have a security light installed outside. He said senior citizens "are taking a beating in this town." But he later said he was willing to pay the fee.
Resident Don Rauch said he isn't against paying the fee but he would rather see the $70,000 be used to pay for a police officer.
"Streetlights don't carry a gun," he said. "I'll pay the $4 for an extra cop," he said.
Resident Jodilynn Fitzgerald said she wanted to see the $70,000 generated from the fee put into the general fund to keep village employees working to provide services. She believes residents should pay the $11 to pay AEP to install lights outside homes.
Resident Judy Ruckman said residents can put a light on a post in their front yards.
Police Chief Steve Maguschak said the issue of communities in the valley turning off streetlights is a recent thing. He doesn't know how it is impacting crime in areas that have turned off the lights. He added the police department had 1,830 calls so far this year. He said full staffing of the police department, as compared to when the officers were laid off, has resulted in less house break-ins.
Herrick said the village finances are in such bad shape that turning off the streetlights may not guarantee there is enough money to fund the police department at full force.
Fabian said village residents have weapons in their home and "aren't afraid to use them."
Jim Raha, a village employee, said he is against the fee and only lights at the intersections should be kept on. He said the money should be used to keep village employees from being laid off, and he added the fee will create more work for a village employee to count the money and keep track of who is paying.
Council at its next meeting in January will consider the ordinance imposing the $4-a-month fee.
Council was scheduled to meet after the streetlights meeting to discuss village finances. But Mayor Ron DiCarlo said he is giving village departments more time to find ways to reduce costs.
Council is scheduled to meet at noon Friday to discuss the finances.